When you hear health fanatics talking about green tea, it’s easy to roll your eyes and think "here we go again". But they’ve actually got a point - green tea is incredibly good for you. In fact, while we’re sipping away on Yorkshire Tea and PG Tips here in the UK, our friends in eastern parts of the world swear by drinking green tea. In fact, it is the second most-consumed beverage on the globe...
But what’s so great about it - what are the many benefits of green tea? Well, it’s bursting with antioxidants for a start not to mention the world of other health benefits associated with drinking this light and refreshing beverage. If you’ve never tried it before, I understand you’ll probably be a little dubious about it but let me reassure you, once you start, you’ll not be able to stop.
This guide is aimed at anyone who’s interested in getting started with drinking green tea. We’ll talk you through how to make the perfect good, explain the benefits of green tea to your health and provide you with all the information you need to know about this amazing drink.
Table of contents
- What Is Green Tea?
- What Does Green Tea Taste Like?
- Tips for Making the Best Green Tea
- Water Quality
- Amount of Tea
- Types of Green Tea
- Why Is Green Tea So Good For You?
- May Prevent Certain Types of Cancer
- May Help With Weight Loss
- Possible Improvements With Oral Health and Beauty
- Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
- Final Thoughts
What Is Green Tea?
All teas - green, black, and oolong tea all come from the same plant, the Camellia Sinensis bush. When you pluck tea leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant, so begins the process of oxidation. This happens almost immediately which is how the black tea we are accustomed to in the UK is made. From this, you get a much darker flavour but when it comes to making green tea, the process of oxidation cannot continue.
So, after the tea leaves are picked, they must be cooked. This is done in several different ways but can include steaming, frying and roasting. Stopping them from oxidising results in a much lighter, fresher taste that’s more herbal than malty.
However, there is a broad range of flavours within green teas and while I will look at this more closely in the coming section, I’ll point out that it can be anywhere from nutty to fruity and crisp to sweet. Much of this depends on the location that the tea was grown and the processing methods.
Moreover, different types of green tea are put into different grades. Some are incredibly sought after and considered to be premium teas. The Asian market is brimming with these and there are tea connoisseurs out there who demand only the very best. In some cases, you’ll fork out triple figures for just a small amount of tea.
But is it worth it? Many would answer yes. When you buy these luxurious, high-quality green teas, you are getting a smooth, aromatic blend with balanced flavours that hits the palate just right.
Of course, when you’re just starting out with green tea, the differences between them might not be blindingly obvious. For this reason, it’s better to start simple, familiarise yourself with the different tastes and then move on to the more premium stuff.
As we’ve already touched upon, the taste of green tea can vary quite significantly depending on several factors. Generally speaking, you’ll notice nutty, vegetal, herbaceous and grassy tastes. However, green tea should not be bitter.
What Does Green Tea Taste Like?
There are ways that you can improve the flavour of your green tea including good water temperature control and the use of high-quality tea leaves.
Again, the style of green tea you choose will massively impact the taste. For example, one of the most popular types of green tea, Matcha from Japan, is also considered one of the best tasting. It’s very full-bodied and rich and is often taken with frothed milk, similar to latte. This type of tea has a clear vegetal, herby taste but this can be altered using spices like cinnamon. It’s largely down to your personal preference.
Tips for Making the Best Green Tea
Getting green tea just right can take a little practice. But don’t be deterred by this. It isn’t rocket science and once you’ve got your brew just right, you’ll be able to consistently produce excellent results. Here are my top tips for making the best green tea even if you’ve never tried it before.
Water QualitySince your green tea will consist heavily of water, you’re going to want to make sure that it’s the best quality. You could use the freshest, most high-quality green tea leaves but if your water isn’t good then that’ll affect the entire drink.
You could use tap water but this isn’t always the purest since it is cleaned with chemicals along the way. If possible, you should filter your tap water before brewing green tea or if this isn’t an option, I’d suggest choosing bottled water for the freshest flavour.
Getting the right water temperature is imperative when it comes to making green tea. You don’t want a cold drink by any means but using boiling water will only serve to make your tea taste bitter. You should use water between 71ºC and 76ºC for the best results.
There is no nutritional value in terms of macronutrients in green tea, but the drink's primary benefits lie in the bioactive compounds it contains. The tea you use, the temperature and the steeping time all have a significant effect on the levels of these compounds. Warm and ambient temperatures are best to retain antioxidant compounds, so allow the boiled water to cool slightly before pouring over the tea leaves, and steep for.
You’ll generally find that Chinese tea is the most tolerant when it comes to hot water so you can get away with raising the temperature a little.
You can boil the water first and then let it cool until it reaches the perfect temperature; that’s why it’s super important to have a kitchen thermometer to hand when brewing.
Alternatively, it’s possible to make cold brew green tea which is beautifully refreshing on a hot summer’s day.
When you make green tea, you need to think about how many leaves you are using. It doesn’t take me to tell you that the more loose leaf tea you add, the stronger you drink will be. As well as this, it will be more full-bodied with larger amounts of leaves.
Amount of Tea
Now, the amount you use will depend on what you personally prefer but generally speaking, it’s a good idea to start small and add more if you need to. Adding between one and two teaspoons of tea leaves is a good place to start. You can taste this and then when it comes to brewing your next cup, you can add or take away as you like.
You don’t need to allow green tea to steep for long. It’s not like making a pot of French coffee that needs a good few minutes to brew. In fact, anywhere between 30 and 60 seconds should be more than enough.
Of course, much like the number of leaves you use, steeping times can be adjusted according to your taste so it’s something else to play around with.
Types of Green Tea
There are a lot of different types of green tea. If you’re new to this drink then it might be worth trying a few different varieties to find your favourite. This short guide on your options will help you to narrow down which ones you’d like to try.
I mentioned matcha earlier on and this is by far one of the most popular types of green tea out there. It’s actually considered quite a trendy drink and more and more cafes are serving than ever before. You’ll also find premade matcha in almost every supermarket in the UK right now.
But this type of tea isn’t just a 21st-century craze. It is believed to have been consumed since around 1000AD way, back to the Song Chinese Dynasty.
There are Chinese and Japanese versions of matcha but you’ll find that the Japanese teas are far superior. There’s a lot of work that goes into the production of matcha, which is a powdered tea and you get a very creamy, savoury drink.
Do keep in mind that Matcha doesn’t keep as long as some other green teas so you’ll need to get through it as quickly as possible.
Gyokuro is a green tea from Japan that’s hailed for its health benefits. It’s grown in a significantly special way and growers will put the bushes into the shade for weeks before they pick the leaves. The reason for this is that the process forces the plants to produce additional nutrients, hence the health benefits.
Not only this but the process ensures that the final product is bursting with flavour that is somewhere between sweet and savoury. It’ll come as no surprise that since this is hailed as one of the best types of green tea, it’s also one of the more expensive.
In Shandong Province, you will find the Laoshan region which is one of the lesser-known growing places in China. It’s a shame since it produces some very impressive tea leaves that have a wonderfully creamy taste.
Many people drink Laoshan tea as a side to buttermilk biscuits owing to the texture of this blend. And while it isn’t as well known, it’s one of the most prized types of green tea for connoisseurs, especially in China.
Japan is known for producing some of the best green teas in the world like sencha and gyokuro. But while these are some of the higher-end teas, the country is also known for producing a lower-budget tea that still tastes amazing.
That tea is called genmaicha which is actually a form of sencha that’s been filled out using other ingredients like puffed rice. It sounds weird at first but it does give the tea a beautiful toasted flavour. Ok, it’s not as sweet as sencha but since it's very robust, a lot of people drink it as an alternative to coffee. It’s also commonly used as an after-dinner drink to aid with digestion.
If you’re going to buy tea from China and you want the very best quality then you’ll want to look for longjing. This is considered the most prized tea from this country and some products are incredibly expensive. That said, there are some more affordable blends that are more widely available.
If you’re going to buy the high-end version of this tea, you’ll get something that has been roasted in a wok. This method of roasting ensures that the tea has a very sweet yet nutty flavour and is beautifully refreshing. But you’ll need to know what you’re looking for and choosing the best longjing tea involves looking for short leaves, not those that are long and thin. Moreover, it’s best to go for leaves that have been harvested in the spring but be quick as these sell out very quickly.
Another of the most well-loved green teas from China is Bilochun but this is far more affordable than the aforementioned longjing. It's a lot more fragrant too with a slight veggie flavour that many compare to edamame.
A lot of biluochun tea is made in Taiwan and has a lovely viscous texture. You’ll be able to tell the difference between these leaves and those from China as the Taiwanese versions are generally larger and the flavours are much more balanced and slightly fruitier.
Sencha is a very popular type of green tea that comes from Japan. The leaves are steamed directly after picking which stops them from going through the process of oxidation. As a result of this, they are quite bitter and have an almost salty quality. As well as this, there are woody and fruity notes to be found in this tea so it’s quite diverse in its taste.
There are different levels of quality where sencha is concerned since this is one of the most commonly sold teas from Japan. Some are very cheap and frankly, not all that pleasant while there are premium sencha blends that have a beautiful delicate flavour.
Why Is Green Tea So Good for You?
So, I think you’re probably pretty familiar with the different types of green tea by now and you should be able to brew up a storm with our top tips for making amazing green tea. But what’s the point in all this fuss over a drink if we don’t know why it’s considered to be so healthy? Here come some of the top possible health benefits that green tea can offer!
You may have heard a rumour that green tea can stop cancer and there is some truth to this. Let’s start by saying that no food or drink can be a surefire way of preventing this disease but there are compounds in green tea that could lessen your chances of developing cancer.
May Prevent Certain Types of Cancer
These compounds are known as polyphenols and they’re known for their ability to reduce cell damage and decrease inflammation as well as being able to prevent certain types of cancer. Moreover, since they’re an antioxidant, they will rid the body of free radicals which can cause diseases like cancer among other things.
Research has linked green tea compounds with a reduced risk of cancer, including the following studies: Breast cancer. A comprehensive review of observational studies found that women who drank the most green tea had an approximately 20–30% lower risk of developing breast cancer, one of the most common cancers in women
Let me start by saying that green tea alone isn’t going to help with weight maintenance or make you lose weight. However, as part of a controlled diet, it does have some pretty impressive fat burning properties.
May Help With Weight Loss
There has been research to demonstrate that when taking green tea, people were able to burn up to 4% more calories than those who did not drink it. This is because of the effect that green tea has on the metabolism.
Another of the nutritional benefits of Green tea is that it may also help regulate blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity, thus improving glycemic control. These effects seem particularly potent when coupled with the Mediterranean Diet
May Improve Brain Function
Green tea contains caffeine and since this is a stimulant, it could go a long way in improving your brain function. Now, this isn’t the kind of caffeine level we would find in coffee that can leave you feeling jittery that comes with too much caffeine; it’s just the right amount to be beneficial.
Studies suggest that having just a small amount of caffeine causes the brain to block certain chemicals and release healthy ones like dopamine. Studies have shown that this can lead to improvements in mood, memory, reaction times and other cognitive functions. Some studies have demonstrated the ability of green tea to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
The beneficial polyphenols of green tea may also help slow the effects of aging on the brain.
While studies in this area are still ongoing, there is some evidence to suggest that green tea consumption can reduce certain bacteria in the month. As a direct result of this, it could also help to reduce problems with bad breath.
Possible Improvements With Oral Health and Beauty
Not only this but green tea is also known to reduce the amount of streptococcus mutants in the mouth which is the leading cause of plaque and tooth decay.
Not only is green tea good for your physical health, but it could also keep you looking great! Beauty experts commonly use green tea products for their anti-inflammatory effects. For instance, a combined regimen of 10% green tea cream and green tea supplements improves the elasticity of skin, which keeps your skin looking more youthful as you age
Another of the many health benefits of Green tea is that it can have protective effects on the heart and help to lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases, reducing the risks of heart attacks and strokes. This is thought to be attributable to the polyphenols in green tea, which can lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation, improve epithelial function, and lower cholesterol, all of which are risk factors for heart disease. A 2020 study in China found that habitual tea drinkers live longer than non-tea drinkers.
Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
One large-scale, 11-year study found that the highest consumption level of green tea (those who drank five cups per day) was associated with the lowest risk levels for all-cause mortality and mortality due to cardiovascular disease.
Green tea has been used for centuries for its beautiful taste and health benefits. Making a good cup of green tea involves using the right water temperature and getting the amount of tea spot on. It will take a little trial and error as how you take your tea is a personal choice. But one thing is for sure, the beneficial effects of the drink seem to be numerous.
Wellness professionals agree that adding green tea to your diet will give your body a real boost and can even place you at a lower risk of developing certain health conditions!